Arizona came to the College World Series as one of the hottest teams in the nation and swept three consecutive games to reach the championship round. South Carolina will try to become the first team in 40 years to win a third consecutive title.
Sophomore right-hander Konner Wade (10-3), who threw a complete-game five-hit shutout against UCLA last Sunday, will be the Game 1 starter for Arizona (46-17). 16-year USC coach Ray Tanner was undecided on which pitcher will face an Arizona team that is fourth in the nation in batting (.330) and sixth in scoring (7.4 runs a game).
This improbable run for the Gamecocks looked doomed from the beginning and the odds were stacked against USC the whole way. Their streak of 22 consecutive wins in Omaha ended with a 2-1 loss to Arkansas last Monday. They staved off elimination three times, beating Kent State once and the Razorbacks twice in a span of 36 hours because of a Wednesday rainout.
Arizona has won nine consecutive games, including all eight in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats beat Florida State, UCLA and the Seminoles again to reach the finals. They’ll be playing for their fourth national title, but first since 1986.
Wildcat’s manager Andy Lopez won a national title at Pepperdine in 1992 and brought Florida to the CWS in 1996 and ’98. He’s back in Omaha in his eighth season at Arizona.